California officials Thursday abruptly halted a controversial effort to slash the carbon footprint of automobile air conditioning.
“Cool car” rules would have required a clear, reflective glaze on vehicle windows as a way to block excessive sunlight and heat. The rules were adopted in June by the state Air Resources Board and were in the process of being finalized.
But law enforcement officials had expressed concerns that the coating -- a spray of microscopic metal particles that block infrared rays -- would interfere with the electronic monitoring of ankle bracelets on paroled felons. Wireless phone companies said the glaze could degrade cellphone signals, including 911 calls. And toll road operators said it could make it difficult to use the "E-Z Pass" systems that allow traffic to move quickly through toll booths.
"Stakeholders raised several new issues involving performance of electronic devices as they may affect public safety," said James N. Goldstene, the board's executive officer. "After listening to this input and accounting for the legal deadline to finalize the rule, we are announcing that the AB 32 'cool cars' rule-making will cease."
AB 32, California’s sweeping 2006 climate law, requires the state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% over the next decade. Air conditioning lowers vehicles' efficiency, increasing emissions from fuel that contribute to global warming. The cool car rule, to be phased in between 2012 and 2016, was designed to block 60% of the sun's energy from entering the interior of a car. Once finalized, the rule would have cut 700,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2020, the equivalent of taking 140,000 cars off the road.
Air Resources Board spokesman Stanley Young said the agency would now pursue "a performance-based approach," meaning auto manufacturers would have to meet a standard for a specific drop in the interior temperature of vehicles, "but they are free to draw on any technology to achieve it. This could be through advanced windows that keep the sun's heat out, but also heat-reflecting paints, different upholstery, or even fans that circulate air and keep the car cool while it is standing in the sun."